Dear Weekend Jolter,
Victim-blaming didn’t die during #MeToo. It thrives today, elsewhere, as it has for decades.
• Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her memoir Infidel, recalled one instance, in 2002. She was listening to a BBC report on the deadly riots sparked by a journalist’s cheeky reference to Mohammed while covering the Miss World pageant. A British pageant organizer came on. Only “instead of blaming the violence on the men who were burning down houses and murdering people, she blamed the young reporter for making ‘unfortunate remarks.’”
The journalist’s editor blamed her too. So did the mob in Nigeria, and she was forced to flee.
• Fast-forward: When two Muslim terrorists murdered a dozen people in 2015 at the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons of Mohammed, a Financial Times piece lamented that the target had a “long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims.” The writer counseled those who would “provoke Muslims” to show some “common sense.” (A variation, in other words, of “Try dressing modestly.”)
• After a man beheaded a schoolteacher on a Paris street in 2020 for showing those cartoons as part of a free-speech lesson, the Associated Press published an article asking, “Why does France incite anger in the Muslim world?”
This kind of victim-blaming remains quite mainstream, quite common, quite culturally acceptable. Wherever the honor of Islam is hideously avenged, some measure of blame is by custom apportioned to The Instigator. The one who drew the caricature. The one who blasphemed. The culture within which such “offenses” are even permitted.
The reaction is of a piece with that from the Iranian government this past week. After novelist Salman Rushdie was stabbed, the foreign ministry explained that they “do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusations except him and his supporters” — apparently faulting him, still, for his supposedly blasphemous book The Satanic Verses. Never mind the fatwa ordering Rushdie’s murder or the $3 million price on his head, all tracing to Iran, or the actions of the attacker himself. Rushdie had “provoked,” 34 years ago, and the response to this provocation is portrayed to be as natural as closing one’s eyes in response to a burst of light.
This is the view from Tehran, phrased only slightly more coarsely than by our apologists here. But there is no reason the West should continue to espouse this view. It is, among other things, condescending in the extreme to presuppose that these assailants have no alternative but to stab away once provoked on grounds of faith — that restraint would be impossible.
Ten years ago, this condescension was dripping from Hillary Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attack and mass protests at American embassies; she repeatedly emphasized how “awful” and “reprehensible” and “disgusting” that Internet video was (you remember: this being the silly video that maybe, like, six people saw) as she also condemned the violence ostensibly linked to it.
There’s a better way. Kevin Williamson:
Against fanaticism, we have — what? Literature and music, love, friendship, humor, and, with the help of skilled doctors and our prayers, the continuing work of Salman Rushdie and other geniuses of his kind, who help to steer us away from the brutal and toward the humane, away from the ridiculous toward the reasonable.
As the coal miners’ song asked: Which side are you on?
There are of course lessons concerning the broader free-speech debate to draw from this, pertaining to alarming efforts in the West to, if not physically attack, prosecute those deemed to have caused offense with their words. But no matter how narrow or broad we might go, this issue is simple, so very simple. Charles C. W. Cooke explains:
Really, there are only two sides to it. There are the people who believe in free speech, and there are the people who don’t. The person who does believe in free speech is currently in the hospital. The person who doesn’t believe in free speech stabbed him.
NAME. RANK. LINK.
Yet more evidence that Iran is not our dance partner: The Rushdie Wake-Up Call
The U.S. should heed the warning from Britain: The U.K. Turns Its Back on Transgender Ideology
Dan McLaughlin: What Liz Cheney Sacrificed
Andrew McCarthy: A Surprise Turn in the Trump Search-Warrant Case
Andrew McCarthy: Trump’s Privilege Claims Are Beside the Point
Charles C. W. Cooke: Britain Must End Its Censorship Regime
Rich Lowry: Merrick Garland Is on a Path to the Abyss
Madeleine Kearns: Is Marriage an Elite Institution?
Ryan Mills: Great Barrier Reef Defies Doomsday Predictions
Dominic Pino weighs in once more on the protectionism debate: Free Markets Are in the National Interest
LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.
I’m studiously not reading this because I haven’t yet seen the final Better Call Saul season, but Phil Klein cheers the man behind two of the best shows ever to grace television, and I’m sure it’s well deserved: Vince Gilligan Pulled Off What Nobody Else Ever Has
Brian Allen visits an impressive museum built around borrowing. If you liked The Last Duel, you’ll love this: A Crash Course in Medieval Armor at Nashville’s Frist Museum
Lena Dunham outdoes the show that tried to outdo her show. From Armond White: Lena Dunham Sticks It to Euphoria
NONE OF THESE EXCERPTS WERE PRE-SCREENED BY SCHUMER’S OFFICE
Dan McLaughlin breaks down Liz Cheney’s primary loss, the choices that led to it, and how we might view them:
It was a steep fall for the former chair of the House Republican Conference. It was due to the choices she made. Was the sacrifice worth it?
There is a legitimate and respectable case to be made both for and against Cheney’s choices.
First, the pro-Cheney case starts with the fact that she lost her job entirely for telling the truth. Sure, there are other critiques of Cheney, but she won a nine-way primary race by 18 points in 2016 and has romped over primary and general-election challengers ever since. She voted with Donald Trump during his presidency more often than Elise Stefanik did, and voted against impeaching him over Ukraine. The main reasons why her support collapsed so dramatically were (1) that she voted to impeach Trump, (2) that she served on the January 6 committee, and (3) how she handled those controversies.
Along the way, she has told many truths that Trump supporters did not want to hear, and that even many Trump-skeptical Republicans did not want to speak. . . .
But there is also a case against Cheney.
First, of course, representatives are supposed to represent their constituents. Cheney plainly failed at doing so, as the lopsided result shows. She was rejected by the same voters who had previously supported her, dropping off from over 78,000 votes in the 2020 primary to just 49,000 last night. It is all too easy to dismiss those voters as “stop the steal” radicals. To understand how she alienated them, it is useful to consider how she went about her business the past year and a half.
Second, Cheney’s participation in the January 6 committee was widely seen as giving her blessing to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in all the various ways that the committee has excluded the right of Republican leaders to select committee members and generally proceeded by press leaks and one-sided presentation of testimony, some of which has not held up well under scrutiny.
Another Putin critic is dead, this time in Washington. Diana Glebova reports on the disturbing case:
A fierce Latvian-American critic of Vladimir Putin living in exile in Washington, D.C., was found dead Sunday evening on the sidewalk outside his apartment building, police said.
Authorities told National Review they don’t suspect foul play, but those close to 52-year-old businessman Dan Rapoport are raising questions about the circumstances surrounding his death, which they doubt was the result of suicide.
“The stakes of getting to the bottom of [Rapoport’s death] are high,” prominent Russia historian and journalist David Satter, who was a friend of Rapoport, told National Review.
“So much in this doesn’t make sense, that clarifying this has got to be a very, very high priority,” Satter said, adding that his death could possibly be an “organized assignation” carried out by Russia in the streets of America’s capital, but that more information needed to be released to determine how Rapoport died. . . .
The first person to report Rapoport’s death, before his case was made public by American media, his family, or the police, was Russian journalist Yuniya Pugacheva via her Telegram channel.
Pugacheva claimed on Tuesday that Rapoport had committed suicide, and had “released his dog into the park with money and a suicide note.”
She also said she had seen Rapoport, owner of Moscow club Soho Rooms, in May while in a London bar in the company of “young women” after his wife had allegedly left him.
The Russian journalist revealed that she had not consulted Rapoport’s widow before releasing the information about his death, and has since refused to disclose her source publicly, keeping quiet about how she knew the details surrounding his death before anyone else.
More from Charles C. W. Cooke on free speech and those who don’t seem to understand it:
Since news of the harrowing attempt on Salman Rushdie’s life broke from Chautauqua on Friday, the British government and its emissaries have been sure to say all the right things. “Appalled,” was Boris Johnson’s verdict. “Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend.” Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party and Johnson’s sparring opponent in Parliament, echoed this position. Rushdie, Starmer said, “has long embodied the struggle for liberty and freedom against those who seek to destroy them.”
Great. And how about those censorship laws of which the British still seem so fond?
I do not make this comparison tritely. Neither Johnson nor Starmer would condone stabbing British citizens who write things they dislike. But investigating? Arresting? Charging? Imprisoning? About those courses of action, they are far, far more sanguine than they should be. If, indeed, Johnson and Starmer believe that free speech is “a right we should never cease to defend” — if they believe, indeed, that it is a key part of the “struggle for liberty and freedom” — then they ought to follow up on that thought by ensuring that the ugly web of restrictions and rules that sit on Britain’s books at present are consigned to the ash heap on which they belong. Call it the Salman Rushdie Act of 2022. . . .
Rifle through the court documents from any high-profile censorship case and you will see the same language repeated ad nauseam. The speaker had to be imprisoned, you see, because he had caused “offense” or “anxiety” or “upset.” The sentence had be imposed, you understand, because it was “necessary to reflect the public outrage.” The police had to get involved, you grok, because, if they hadn’t, then someone, somewhere might have had to process their emotions without the intervention of the state. Or, put another way: The mob grew upset, so we indulged them.
In the latest issue of NR, Nat Malkus surveys the educational damage from the Covid school-closure wars:
Neither red nor blue school leaders were especially flexible in their responses to Covid. At the December height of the 2020–21 Covid threat, before vaccines were widely available, less than one in five Trump-voting school districts took the precaution of going fully remote. Before March, less than one in five Biden districts were fully open on any given week. By April, when vaccines were available and cases had fallen dramatically, only about one-third of Biden districts had fully reopened, compared with more than 60 percent of Trump districts. The first full pandemic year, the highest percentage of Biden districts that were fully in-person (38 percent in June 2021) never reached the lowest percentage of Trump districts (40 percent in January).
Disproportional Covid caution was devastating for students. A Harvard study found that students who stayed home for most of 2020–21 lost a staggering 50 percent of a typical year’s learning in math, compared with 20 percent for those who were mostly in-person.
In retrospect, extended school closures look especially flawed because schools weren’t that dangerous — they were actually one of the safest places students could be. We had evidence of this as early as October 2020. A North Carolina study found that school-related Covid transmissions were less than one-tenth of what would be expected given community transmission rates. As Duke pediatrician Daniel Benjamin summarized: “It’s safer for them to be in school than to be outside of school.” . . .
Responsible leadership is exactly what schools need more of. Covid presented an unprecedented challenge in balancing the imperatives of public health with the need of students to learn. To be sure, some leaders met this challenge admirably, but too many failed this test. If, this year, they cannot return schools to normalcy and respond to the academic and pandemic challenges that face them, students will keep paying the price.
Felix Salmon, at Axios: Afghanistan’s economic calamity
Collin Anderson, at the Washington Free Beacon: ‘Squad’ Member Expanded Her Rental Property Portfolio as She Pushed for Taxpayer-Funded Landlord Relief
Sarah Dadouch & Annabelle Timsit, at the Washington Post: Female Saudi activist gets record 34 years in prison for critical tweets
Jonah Goldberg, at the Los Angeles Times: The paradox of Trump’s charisma
Here’s a deep track: Frank Zappa’s “Blessed Relief,” off The Grand Wazoo.
Frank Zappa, a divisive performer if there ever was one. I can’t remotely call myself an expert in Zappology; his discography is so extensive that to be one takes committed scholarship. I can’t necessarily call myself a fan either. Which is not to deny his talent or that his catalogue contains many masterpieces — such as that pleasant orchestral number with a jaunty hook above.
If any Zappa scholars (or casual listeners) are out there reading this, please do send any recommendations from his archive my way, for sharing with this list: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading.